One of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. – Mark 12:28-31 KJV
Tonight is the first Shabbat since the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre last weekend. As such, Jewish leaders are asking Americans of all faiths to come attend services. In doing the American Jewish Committee, or AJC, hopes to send “a resounding message that love triumphs over hate.”
The purpose of the campaign which uses the hashtag #ShowUpForShabbat is two-fold.
By attending synagogue tonight we can show solidarity and support for the 11 victims killed at the Tree of Life synagogue, as well as for their families and friends and the greater Jewish community. Just as importantly we can stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters as they show the world that the Jewish community will not live in fear.
Tips for Christians and Others
As some of you know I made a full conversion to Judaism in 2009 so I’m very comfortable attending services at a nearby synagogue. But I realize that this could feel a little intimidating to others. These tips may help.
- You will be welcome at most, if not all, synagogues. For a list of participating synagogues, please click here.
- Once there, do not feel like you have to follow along with the service or worry about getting lost. No one is watching so just be present.
- Remember that you are hearing some of the same prayers our Lord said 2000 years ago and that many are much older. Allow yourself to appreciate this.
- Keep in mind that all denominations of Judaism need our support!
- Conservative and Orthodox synagogues have more Hebrew than Reform. Services are more traditional and often quite beautiful. Services may be on Saturday as opposed to Friday night.
- You may find the service easier to follow in a Reform synagogue. While there is still some Hebrew, most Reform prayer books are phonetic and geared toward English speakers. Most services will be on Friday night.
- If you chose to attend an Orthodox synagogue, women may be more comfortable in long sleeves and slightly longer than usual skirts. Be aware that men and women do not usually sit together.
- Conservative synagogues are less dress code conscious, in my experience, but you may feel a bit out of place in very casual dress.
- Introduce yourself to the Rabbi or any random person you can. When I first started going to synagogue, I was blown away by how welcoming and friendly people were but sometimes you have to take the first step.
- There will probably be food afterwards. Definitely stay!
Remember Why You Are There
We attend services tonight to show support during what is likely to be a difficult time for most Jewish people. Keep in mind that people know you are coming and your presence will be appreciated.
In a wider sense, attending synagogue tonight is a mitzvah or good deed that moves us closer to God and honors the great commandment of Mark 12:28.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. – Deuteronomy 6:4-5